Msgr. John J. Miller, 80, pastor emeritus of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Fairless Hills and a former dean of men at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, died Dec. 1.
Born in Chester, the son of the late Joseph D. Miller and the late Elizabeth M. (Coonan) Miller, he attended St. Michael School and St. James High School before going on to the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He was ordained March 15, 1964 in Rome by Cardinal Luigi Traglia.
His early assignments were as parochial vicar at St. Albert the Great Parish, Huntingdon Valley and Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Warminster. He then returned to Rome where he received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Albert.
He then served as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist, Philadelphia, and after service on the faculty of Bishop McDevitt High School he was assigned to St. Charles Seminary where he was a professor of liturgy and dean of the Theology Division.
He also served as staff and then chairman of the archdiocesan Commission on Sacred Liturgy and was instrumental in the implementation of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. He also served as Director of Ongoing Formation for Priests.
In 1989 Msgr. Miller was appointed pastor of St. Frances Cabrini and remained there until he was named pastor emeritus in 2007.
Father Brian Kean has reason to remember Msgr. Miller whenever he celebrates Mass. Through the years he got to know Msgr. Miller very well.
“He was really one of the direct reasons for my vocation,” Father Kean said. “He was extremely intelligent and had a way of explaining things. He was very gentle, kind and pastoral. He gave me his chalice when I was ordained. It has great sentimental value for me. It will be used at his funeral Mass.”
Dolores Deery wasn’t a parishioner at St. Frances Cabrini but would come to the church because of family in the parish. At one point Msgr. Miller noticed how happy she was at St. Frances Cabrini. He sensed this was not the case at her territorial parish and he invited to her join his parish. She and her late husband did so, and she became a lector and occasional eucharistic minister.
“He was a priestly priest,” she said. “I loved him dearly and I don’t know anyone who ever had an unkind word to say about him. He went above and beyond being about his Father’s business.”
Deery recalled how a few months ago when her husband died, Msgr. Miller, in spite of his own serious illness, made it a point to come back to the parish to celebrate Mass at the funeral. “It was the last funeral he celebrated,” she said.
Before being named pastor emeritus, Msgr. Miller served for a time as a senior priest at St. Martha Parish in Philadelphia and briefly as administrator at St. Michael Parish, Philadelphia, and briefly at Immaculate Conception Parish, Philadelphia. He was in residence at Immaculate Conception, Jenkintown, at the time of his death.
There will a viewing for Msgr. Miller this evening, Dec. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at James J. Dougherty Funeral Home, Levittown.
There will also be a viewing at St. Martin of Tours Chapel at St. Charles Seminary on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. followed by his funeral Mass at 12 noon.
Bishop Timothy C. Senior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, will be the principal celebrant. Concelebrants will include Msgr. Francis Carbine, Msgr. Michael McCormac, Father Kean, Father Joseph Howarth, Father Al Sceski of the Harrisburg Diocese and Father G. Dennis Gill, who will be the homilist.
Msgr. Miller is survived by his sister, Elizabeth J. “Betty” Leonard and nieces, nephews and their families. Interment will be at Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.
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